Jury in Miller County child sex abuse trial to deliberate Friday morning

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After hearing a third day of testimony and closing arguments from the state and defense, a Miller County jury deliberated for about two hours before requesting an evening recess Thursday.

Circuit Judge Brent Haltom released the jury with instructions to return Friday morning to resume deliberations in the trial of 35-year-old Jared Allen Harper. Harper is accused of sexual misconduct with a girl who spoke of the alleged abuse in March 2015 to an older brother.

The girl’s mother and Harper became romantically involved when the girl was very young and Harper is the father of the girl’s two younger half brothers, ages 7 and 9. The girl’s older brother, now 17, testified that he never got along with Harper but denied he and his sister conspired to get Harper in trouble by falsifying an abuse story.

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The brother testified that his younger sister, now 13, asked him not to tell anyone but that stress in the family led him to confide in an uncle and later his mother. In the more than two years since the allegations were brought to the attention of law enforcement, the girl has recanted her story and then realleged it.

Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Black and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell argued that the girl was pressured into “taking back” the allegations by her mother. They argued that the mother feared losing Harper’s financial support and that she made the girl feel guilty that the two younger half brothers of hers Harper fathered would suffer as well.

Defense attorneys Jason Horton of Texarkana and Jeffrey Rosenzweig of Little Rock argued that the state has refused to accept the girl’s earlier recantations of abuse and pointed to inconsistencies in her testimony. Black and Mitchell argued that the girl’s mother has supported Harper instead of her own daughter in hopes of protecting her own self interest.

Harper is charged with rape, second-degree sexual assault and indecency with a child. Second-degree sexual assault is punishable by five to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $15,000. Indecency is punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. Rape is punishable by 10 to 40 years or life in prison.

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